photos courtesy of estate
I love Verdicchio, and the bright, distinctive, intense Verdicchio di Matelica from Colle Stefano has been a staple of our selection for more than ten years. To my taste, much Verdicchio from the neighboring Castelli di Jesi appellation is mealy by comparison. But just to see if there were exceptions, I tasted through a slew of Jesi bottlings at Vinitaly, and the wine from an estate called La Staffa stuck out: it was vibrant, direct, very flavorful, complex and delicious. La Staffa's young owner and enologist Riccardo Baldi was sharing a booth not far away, and I tasted through his whole line of wines, impressed by them and by his youthful enthusiasm (Riccardo is 24 and has already made 4 vintages). A week later, a visit to the vineyards and winery in the beautiful rolling hills outside the little town of Staffolo was equally impressive. (The Marche is one of Italy's most beautiful region, and the wine and food culture of the area should be better known.)
Ian d'Agata, in his wonderful new book about Italian grapes*, says that Verdicchio is 'arguably Italy's greatest native white grape variety;' I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but I love the grape and have drunk a lot of Colle Stefano over the years. The combination of aromas and flavors (apple, citrus, almond, herbs) is different, the weight in the mouth is different, but both wines are excellent examples of a fine Italian native variety.
* Native Wine Grapes of Italy, published by UC Press
Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi
La Staffa's Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi is grown organically (moving towards certification) in limestone-rich clay soil at about 400 meters (1,300 feet) above sea level, close to the altitude at Colle Stefano, which is about an hour away (and much closer as the crow flies); high altitude vineyards preserve acidity during the growing season, and La Staffa has almost the same lip-smacking fresh green-apple zing as Colle Stefano. The grapes are picked into small boxes, pressed immediately, and fermented (using both indigenous yeasts and cultured yeasts) at cool temperature in a mixture of stainless steel and cement tanks with temperature control for about 15 days; the wine is bottled in the spring following the vintage after aging on the fine lees for about six months. The wine in tank is left outside during the winter for a mild natural cold stabilization, and is roughly filtered (not sterile filtered).
Tasting notes: Pale straw; distinctly aromatic (almond, citrus, green apple, herbal notes on both nose and palate); medium weight, fresh acidity; long finish. Makes a delicious dry aperitif, or drink it with most any seafood dish, seafood pastas, or roast chicken.